What is it, pray tell? The smaller natural wonders of southern Arizona

Tuesday, September 4 (continued)

Cochise Stronghold Campground, Dragoon Mountains, Arizona

Reggie, Roger, and I stroll around the campground.

“Stop!  You walked right past it!  Look at this little green creature over here!”

“It’s a praying mantis!”

Listen up, boys and girls.  A praying mantis is a mantid.


“What is a mantid?” one wonders.

Definition of mantid:  “predacious, long bodied large-eyed insect of warm regions; rests with forelimbs raised as if in prayer.” — thefreedictionary.com

Fun facts about the praying mantis!

“A praying mantis has two large, compound eyes that work together to help it decipher visual cues. But strangely, the praying mantis has just a single ear, located on the underside of its belly, just forward of its hind legs. This means the mantid cannot discriminate the direction of a sound, nor its frequency. What it can do is detect ultrasound, or sound produced by echolocating bats. Studies have shown that praying mantids are quite good at evading bats.” — “Ten Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts,” thoughtco.com

Fun facts about the flower it rode in on!

The praying mantis here is astride a flower of the datura plant.  I’ve seen daturas all over the place recently (late Aug., early Sept.).  Mostly I’ve seen them along roads and highways.   The toxicity of datura has earned it several other names:  devil’s trumpets, jimsonweed, devil’s weed, hell’s bells, thorn-apple.

So . . .

What we have here is a praying mantis sitting on the devil’s weed.

Pray on, brother . . . 

“Hell’s bells, boys!  Detour around that devilish datura!”

This next photo displays a very large and unusual rock formation.

It resembles a giant squirrel monster or something.  It’s difficult to tell from the photo how big and tall it is.  I guess about eight feet high or more.

Knowing how Roger enjoys rock climbing, I invite him to climb onto the monster rock to give us a sense of proportion.

He refuses.

Can we blame him?


Let’s turn to a different sort of nature’s artistry, shall we?

Like this still life made naturally, without the “help” of human hand.  A gentle mix of form, color, and texture . . .  aahhh . . . lovely.

Not far from the scene above, we find a flotilla of ferns.  This is their true color — blue-green waves!

Next:  Indian paintbrush.

At Cochise Stronghold.

How fitting!

Monsoon season is still with us.

Typically, clouds darken in the afternoon (or they move in).

The crew and I are ready to go home anyway. We’ve had a full morning.

After refreshing ourselves with a drink of water, we board the Perfect Tow Vehicle and ride away from the Dragoon Mountains.

A short distance from the woodlands of evergreen, oak, juniper, manzanita, and Arizona Madrone in their seemingly haphazard arrangements, we find the man-made uniformity of trees in rows.

Hmm . . . What kind of trees are those?  They don’t look like fruit trees.  Nuts maybe?

And is that yellow bird of paradise growing wild at the fence line?

Reggie and Roger snooze during the long ride home.

(I take these photos out the open window of the PTV in order not to agitate the boys. They’re very sleepy!)

Later I research the area east of the Dragoon Mountains.  

I want to find out what those trees are!

I load the day’s photos into Picasa photo editor, find the orchard photos, and enlarge a pink dot among a mystery tree’s leaves.

(Sorry for the poor quality.)

Hmm . . . Could it be?


Pistachios grow in southern Arizona.

I never would’ve guessed.


NOTE:  Well, this wraps up our visit to Cochise Stronghold.  If you are interested in visiting, you might enjoy the website, cochisestronghold.com.   You’ll find a map, history, an extensive bird list, and backcountry climbing resources.

Interested in wine with your pistachios?  Golden Rule Vineyards/Cochise Groves offers both! — Sue


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80 Responses to What is it, pray tell? The smaller natural wonders of southern Arizona

  1. tamra says:

    ooo! First?

  2. Norman in San Diego says:


  3. Linda, Molly & MIdgy in Carmichael, CA says:


  4. Renee from Idaho says:

    Hi Sue! Well, in the top ten, but not close to first. Back to readying. Funny, how it seems to be a competition for 1st!

  5. pookie and chuck says:

    Ive been told those are pistachio nuts…there is a big grove down on I=10 between Tuscsan and El Paso……

    pookie and chuck

    • pookie and chuck says:

      ha……..guess i shoulda read it all…sorry about that
      its pookies fault

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Well, thank you, pookie, for the tidbit about the big grove between Tucson and El Paso… I didn’t know that.

        Hi, chuck! 🙂

        • pookie and chuck says:

          only 2 things i remember about driving from houston to las vegas is the stockyards at el paso which you can smell before you even get to it and the pistachio grove in Arizona…

  6. Diana says:

    “What we have here is a praying mantis sitting on the devil’s weed.”
    LOL! thanks for the chuckle!

  7. A Windle says:

    Pistachios grow in Az? Ok, I’m moving…. Great tour, thank you

  8. Columbus Calvin says:

    I always like seeing praying mantises. They and walking sticks are fascinating creatures. The only thing I “really” know about jimsonweed (datura) is that some kids in the next school district over wound up in the hospital because of smoking it a few decades back. It’s a pretty flower, though.

    The picture of the clouds darkening over the mountains is evocative. I like that. Here in Ohio, we seem to be done with the rain for a few days. We got 3″ to 4″ over the weekend, and that’s more than enough for now.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Calvin,

      I bet all that rain tamps down whatever makes your asthma flair up. At least I hope it does. There’s always a silver lining. Enjoy the sunshine!

      Kids will do the stupidest thing. Datura isn’t something to play around with. I read somewhere that the toxicity level varies widely. Animals are given a warning; the leaves give off a strong odor.

      Thank you for noting your appreciation of the photo with dark clouds.

      • Columbus Calvin says:

        The rain helps me, mostly because the humidity is actually lower, along with the air pollution and temperature. My asthma is “interesting” partly because I have few allergies, but humid and/or polluted air gives me trouble. It’s not always fun, but I’m not in pain or suffering as so many others do.

  9. Cynthia in San Clemente says:

    Nice writing! Loved “what we have here is a praying mantis sitting on the devil’s weed” and a “flotilla of ferns” – nice alliteration on the latter. Are you sure you were a math teacher and not an English teacher?

    I’m curious as to what Marg’s reaction was when the boys got home from their adventure. I wonder if dogs have a language we don’t understand and if she somehow asked them where they had been. At a minimum, she must have smelled the Dragoon/Cochise scents on them and been curious. I know when one of my dogs has to go to the vet and the other stays home, the one who left gets a thorough sniffing when he or she comes home.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Cynthia,

      Thank you for the compliment on my writing. Actually I did teach “Language Arts” along with Math at the middle school level. 🙂

      You mention your dogs. I want you to know that several times since I first saw the remembrance video you made of your beloved dog, I’ve thought about it, picturing your pup. So sweet and brave of you to attempt such an emotional project. It’s a lovely tribute.

      You asked about Marg’s reaction when the boys returned. Yes, sniffing and very happy to see her pals…

      • Cynthia in San Clemente says:

        Thank you Sue. I watch that video every so often and it always brings me to tears. Boz was a somewhat aloof dog who treated life and us as though he was entitled, although I loved him immensely and it was an emotionally difficult video to make. I can’t begin to imagine making a video for either Sammy or Lucy when they pass. As rescues, they seem perpetually grateful for every scrap of food and every hug they get. Sammy was severely abused and every time he stares into my eyes I feel like he is saying, “thank you” (or, I’m hungry – lol!) When something happens to them, it will kill me.

  10. Marcia GB in MA says:

    What a unique post! I really enjoyed this one 😀

  11. Dawn in NC says:

    Hi Sue! Thanks for the nice tour of the Cochise Stronghold. It seems like a really marvelous place! I like praying mantis too. When I was a little kid, we had a nest of them hatch out of our piano in the family room! I am just slogging through work and thinking about getting ready for Florence. I am far enough inland that the main threat she brings is flooding. Still not something to be scoffed at. Off to the store to stock up on water!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Dawn,

      I’ve been wondering about the blogorinos in NC and SC. Last I heard was Cat 4. Good to know you’re inland and taking preparations in case of flooding.

      Musical praying mantises! Praying and playing their favorite hymns on the piano…. 🙂

    • Denise - Richmond VA says:

      Hi, Dawn,

      I hope you found water to buy. Target and Walmart had empty shelves and no additional stock in the back. Frustrating, as I called Target to confirm they still had stock as indicated on their website. Stop #3 was Walgreens….paid $6.99 each for two 24-packs of Dasani water. It is $2 less at Target and Walmart usually has a 32-pack for around $5 and change. The price really does not matter if the shelf is empty… 🙂 Walgreens prices are usually high unless they are running a sale.

      Please stay safe! At this point, most of Virginia is expecting 15-20” of flooding rain and damaging wind Thursday through Sunday. The forecast will be fine tuned as the week progresses.

      • Cinandjules 🌵 says:

        To add to Denise’s comment about water.
        Office supply stores Office Max and Staples etc also carry bottled water in cases …not really advertised. BigLots carries it also!
        Home Depot and Lowes as well…but best avoid the crowd trying to get other supplies.

        • Cinandjules 🌵 says:

          Or they sell 5 gallon empty jugs in front of Walmart near the check out. Fill up 2 at the water machine and lug them home.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Other measures in a pinch: Clean and fill the bathtub with water. Boil the water (or treat it) before consuming. Also the hot water heater holds several gallons of water. If you don’t want to drink the water from the tub or hot water heater, it’s useful for washing yourself and dishes, for the toilet, etc., allowing you to conserve the supply of drinking water.

      • Dawn in NC says:

        Thanks Denise! I got some yesterday at the store, but would feel comfortable having more. I am stocked for cat food and human food. Just need a little more water!

      • Denise - Richmond VA says:

        Thank you, Cinandjules and Sue for the helpful information! I will be filling up a tub, just in case I need water to flush the toilet. Better to be prepared and not need it! 🙂

  12. EmilyO in southern NM says:

    Please, please don’t let praying mantis near your hummingbird feeders. Praying mantis love to pray on hummers and can catch them and they become breakfast, lunch or dinner. I lost a hummer to one last year and it was a devastating sight and one I don’t want to see again.

    Oh and Windle, pistachios grow in southern New Mexico near Alamogordo and one even has a winery. If you like pecans, they grow in the Rio Grande Valley in southern NM.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, EmilyO,

      I had no idea a praying mantis would go after a hummingbird. What a terrible thing to witness. I haven’t seen any mantises around our house. The hummingbird feeder is a busy place. Hummers fight for possession of the feeder, even perching on a nearby branch to guard against other hummers “trespassing.”

      • EmilyO in southern NM says:

        Did you know that hummers don’t fly together? They are not very social and live solitary lives – the reason they can be so aggressive around feeders. There are some hummers that can fly 500 miles in 20 hrs – no wonder they need that juice. And at migration time of the year, you need to feed them a 1/3 (1 part sugar to 3 parts water) ration of syrup instead of the normal 1/4. Put your feeders out in the same place each year as they remember where they were the previous visit as they return flying low looking for those familiar feeders in familiar places. I have 3 feeders out and this year they are keeping me very busy compared to the last couple of years. Lots of Rufous this year.

  13. weather says:

    As I’ve watched your reactions to your visit to Cochise Stronghold I remembered your building a fort in the woods because your nephew had said he was bored. That may seem like an odd connection, yet both stories tell me about how varied your interests are, and how your innate curiosity entertains not only you, but everyone you share with.

    You see the Pacific Ocean, most people would think “Oh, look how vast it is, how big the waves are, the beach and sand are amazing!” You noticed and appreciated that, too, yet were fascinated by the driftwood, as though it alone would have made the trip worth it for you. That type of thing happens to you everywhere, so I needn’t list all the ones that come to mind. Instead, I’ll thank you for all the glimpses you give me into your world. I think it’s great that Cochise and a praying mantis get equal billing in your play. The fourth photo in this post would fit nicely in a children’s fairy tale.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, weather,

      You always manage to lift me with your words. Thank you! I appreciate that you see the value in small things and short views. Love your statement about Cochise and a praying mantis getting equal billing in my play. I hadn’t thought of it that way. 🙂

      That bored nephew of several years ago was Frank.

      • weather says:

        What a nice man Frank has become, I had wondered if he was that nephew. Do you remember where you were on 9/11/2001?

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Yes. I was in my classroom full of 6th graders. The principal called me to the door and told me. Where were you?

          • weather says:

            Bartending where we had large televisions on, it was hard to stay there until evening while longing for the comfort of being home with my husband.

      • weather says:

        Now that I am using my laptop I’ll try to more adequately respond, my prior reply was typed using my phone’s keypad. You must have been stunned and found it difficult to remain in charge of your pupils while absorbing such shocking news!

        The owner of the restaurant had left me in charge while he left to be with his own family. The patrons all were of course upset and wanted the televisions left on. Every channel carried the news as the day and events progressed. The reporters and patrons continually speculated about whether or not the attacks would continue.

        Meanwhile, all my coworkers had asked to leave to pick up their children, etc., and some people were planning to meet their spouses at the restaurant as they left work , so I couldn’t just close the place, or be on the phone with my husband, family or friends. I tried for the sake of the patrons to be the voice of reason, remain calm and helpful.

        Now, knowing how many others lost their lives, risked their own to help, or lost loved ones , my own experience of wanting comfort at home seems pathetically selfish.

  14. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    Hi, Sue,

    I enjoyed the variety of topics on this post and the beautiful scenery. I have praying mantis that nest somewhere in my yard. I usually will find babies (about 1”) on my siding in the Spring. That always makes me happy! Occasionally, one will be perched on the screen of my back porch storm door. I keep the light on at night, so the feast comes to him. 🙂

    Reggie and Roger looked throughly pooped, happy to plop into their comfy beds for a nap. They had a great time! I bet you had an enjoyable nap, too. 🙂

    Sending you, Reggie, and Roger lots of love and hugs from me and Gracie pup! Pistachios, pecans, wine….oh, my! You live in a delicious area of AZ! 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Denise,

      I enjoyed your praying mantis anecdote. Good of you to leave the light on for them. (Not so good for the bugs–Ha!)

      Talking about pecans…. I had a few weak moments in the ice cream aisle at Fry’s grocery. I resisted until I spied a container of Tillamook’s Butter Pecan Caramel. It is all that I hoped it would be. 🙂

      Wishing you safety and calm in the coming storm.

      Thanks for the love and hugs. Sending the same to you and Gracie pup!

      • Denise - Richmond VA says:

        Butter Pecan Carmel?! What a perfect combination! Glad it was as wonderful as you hoped it would be. Now I want some ice cream…. I wish Tillamook ice cream was sold here. 🙂

  15. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    Shout out to AZ Jim and Detta! I hope you both are doing well. No need to reply, just wanted you to know that you both are in my thoughts. **hugs** 🙂

  16. jazzlover says:

    Yes, there are a few pistachio farms in that neck of the woods, remember going there and learning the history of the farm from the then owners never knowing they grew in south eastern Arizona. They were delicious! I see pistachios in the grocery stores and none can match those from years ago. Treat yourself to some if you like them, you’ll taste the difference.

  17. Carin says:

    Thank you so much for the info! It was amazing. I was there a couple of weeks ago and also thought that looked like either a monster or Jabba the Hut from Star Wars!!

    My doggies enjoyed the same walk and were so tired on the drive home. We did a day trip.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Carin,

      You were there before the official opening date of the campground. I hope it was as peaceful for you as it was for us.

  18. Kathy (NC) says:

    Love the pictures of the praying mantis – I’ve taken pictures of several over the years – they are so fascinating!
    We are leaving for a trip north to visit friends on Wednesday so will not be here to experience Florence! We’ve done as much as we can to make the next few days as easy as possible for the friend who will be looking after our chickens and ducks – we have a generator so water will not be a problem. But can’t help worrying about what might happen, especially to everyone living nearer the coast. Also hoping that the campgrounds we are staying at in Virginia are not under water by the time we get there!! Maybe we should think about moving out west!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Wishing you safe travels and camping, Kathy. I hope your ducks, chickens, and neighbors weather the storm well. Do let us know.

  19. Eileen says:

    Have not seen a praying mantis is in a very long time. The pics brought back memories. Thanks for sharing!

  20. LeeJ in Northern California says:

    Oh, jimson weed! Have you seen and fallen in love with Georgia OKeefes painting? She described the desert with her paints,the way you describe it with your photos.
    I’m not sleeping yet again….my mind doesn’t seem to want to shut down…when the house gets quiet and I am just thinking..I go to my worries for my dear friend that has terminal cancer…she has been my friend for so many years, through so many changes.

  21. Rhodium in SW VA says:

    One day while mowing grass a praying mantis flew onto my tractor. I never thought of them flying before. It was so big and unexpected I almost jumped off. They seem quite common down here.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      From that experience, I think the praying mantis might also be quite bold. Attacking a moving tractor. Ha, the power of prayer!

  22. You found some wonderful small views on your walk. That praying mantis is a beauty, but they always make me step back 🙂 The boys look like they enjoyed having a new adventure.

  23. Denise - Richmond VA says:

    Sending thoughts and prayers for everyone in Florence’s path. I hope all will heed evacuation orders. Please be safe!

    My co-worker has a friend who lives a block off the ocean in Emerald Isle, NC. EI is a beautiful, peaceful, sliver of an island, just 4-5 blocks wide. They got the evacuation notice yesterday morning. He is moving one block to the middle of the island, refusing to leave because “his stuff might get looted.” Dumb as a &$@# rock. Stuff can be replaced and does not matter. Safety personnel should not have to waste resources on anyone that ignores evacuation notices. One of the storm tracks shows Florence coming to shore at Emerald Isle. I hope my beloved EI survives, and I hope my co-worker’s friend fairs ok too, despite his stupidity.

    On a brighter note, my work has decided to close starting Thursday. For this, I am very thankful and relieved. Gracie pup will be happy to have me home. 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Denise,

      Can you imagine thinking that the middle of an island, only 4-5 blocks wide, is safe in a direct hit from a hurricane of this size? A moment will come when he realizes his mistake. I hope he survives.

      A special treat for Gracie — Having you home! Looks like the days will be rainy. I prescribe comfort food and cuddles! 🙂

    • Elizabeth says:

      We have kids and grandkids in NC…inland some…but still with wind and rain one can have problems. Sure hope you and the lovely pup are safe there!! One of my dear friends lives there in your area. Keep us all posted if you can!! We will pray for safety!!

      • Denise - Richmond VA says:

        Thank you for your kind wishes, Elizabeth. 🙂

        I hope and pray that your kids will be safe through the storm. We are now not expecting to get as much of the brunt of the front as originally expected. We had a surprise 3-hr thunderstorm last night that saturated the ground. The upcoming rain and wind may bring flooding and downed trees with power outages. Nothing by any means compared to the folks on the front line in NC & SC. I keep hoping that the storm will go back out to sea and run out of steam. Keeping everyone in my prayers.

  24. Cinandjules 🌵 says:

    You ought not tempt Mother Nature! She always wins.

    People can be so stubborn thinking oh it won’t happen to me. With an island 4-5 blocks wide what’s the sense in moving a block?

    You and Gracie pup take care! Make sure her collar is tight.

    • Denise - Richmond VA says:

      Thank you, Cinandjules. 🙂

      As of today, the guy (and his wife) are staying put in Emerald Isle, NC. They have a home in the Richmond area where they could safely wait out the storm. I don’t get it!

      • Cinandjules says:

        Gawd! I wish them the best! Hopefully the wife made her own decision and was not influenced by her husband.

        A family did that back when Sandy hit….he didn’t want to leave cuz they were looted the last time. The surge came and their daughter was killed. Smdh!

        I would be like “see ya see ya hate to be ya”

    • Denise - Richmond VA says:

      Thank you for the collar check reminder!

  25. Deena in Phoenix says:

    I am putting the header on my laptop to enjoy throughout the day. Love those two little tails!

    Take Care Everyone, specially those on the east coast.

  26. Tom says:

    Dad had an expression, “You are growing like Jimson weed!” I was a little kid, and I had no idea what Jimson weed was. Georgia Okeeffe once painted Jimson weed. When I saw her painting, then in Santa Fe, I never forgot it. Alice Walton bought it for the American art Museum she built in Bentonville Arkansas. She paid 44.4 million, I think the highest price ever paid for a painting by a woman. I have never seen pictures of JW actually growing in the wild until I saw your pictures. So I finally after all these years know what Jimson weed looks like.
    Thanks Sue

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Tom,

      One of the pleasures of having this blog is a reader telling me how it affected their life, even in the small ways. Thanks for an interesting comment!

  27. Dawn in NC says:

    Hurricane Florence is well on her way. Although I live inland, the path of the hurricane is expected to cut through where I live. In Durham/Raleigh, gas stations are running out of gas. Where I live, everywhere is out of generators and water. Aside from some batteries and a little more water. I am about as ready as one can be for these things. My work has been canceled for the week. Unfortunately, they force you to take your vacation days for this. I should be greatful, however. I have co-workers who don’t even get those. I’m really anxious for our beautiful coast line. Also, in the past we have had inland towns flood out. I am afraid for the animal shelters in the path of the hurricane. I hope that they are able to be evacuated as well. At least since Katrina, people seeking community shelters can take their pets with them! Keep safe everyone!

    • weather says:

      Gosh, Dawn , I hope you are able to get everything you’ll need very soon. Hurricane Florence is 5oo miles in diameter so it’s effects are bound to be wide spread. On the news I watched they said people living in the Carolinas should be prepared for extended power outages that may last for multiple days. I hope that doesn’t happen where you live and am praying for you to be alright. I’ve been through a storm before when we were without power for ten days. So I know it can be done if one is well prepared, yet it’s not easy or comfortable to live that way. Stay safe and be well, I hope you will be able to let us know how everything goes for you.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Will be praying for your safety as well as our own kids and grandkids back there. They live not far from you…a little south. At least our daughter lives as high of an elevation as there is in her area…not sure about son…they just moved and we have not been there yet. You all take care…and get water…the most important of all. At least it is not terribly cold yet!!

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